Pets with Disabilities Series: 2- or 3-legged Pets
Pet owners fondly refer to their animals as their four-legged friends, but sometimes they come with only two or three functioning limbs. Sometimes animals start out with four, and then accident or illness results in paralysis or sufficient damage to render some of the legs useless.
While it is not always comfortable to see an animal we associate with physical prowess or endless energy, hobbled in such a way, embracing their willingness to adapt can reveal a boundless spirit that rewards an owner's commitment tenfold.
Animals who are born crippled have a built-in advantage to adapting to their limitations, since they have never known any other way. Cats are, not surprisingly, especially resourceful, regardless of the number of legs they have to work with, because their balance and agility can compensate for a lot. If left with two functioning legs as unilateral (fore-limb hind-limb on the same side) or diagonal (one fore-limb, one hind-limb, on opposite sides) double amputees, cats face a challenge that many can meet.
Obviously if only one leg is compromised, both cats and dogs are adept at maneuvering quite well with the other three. Extremely light carts, like those patented and produced by K-9 Carts, which strap on to the pet's body and provide support and movement through wheels, can enable an animal with either both front or back limb paralysis to get up and go. Another alternative for pets who have no use of the rear limbs is a partial body sack that provides rear and chest protection, preventing sores and other complications that an animal is vulnerable to if their movement is limited to dragging themselves around on the floor.
There are numerous products out there to suit a wide range of needs, so researching the options will yield helpful tools, but science is also aiming to provide other options. In 2005, a veterinarian and engineer team at North Carolina State University designed and installed an artificial limb on George Bailey, a family cat born without the lower half of its hind legs. The surgery was a success and within five days, it was reported in the college paper, the cat could step on his new leg.
A follow-up article on the school's online site, Technician Online, followed up on George's progress and ultimate predicament, "[George] transformed into a rambunctious, running, jumping and chasing cat. Unfortunately, George's prosthesis could not keep up with his enthusiastic nature. Two months after the surgery, he broke the titanium nail holding the prosthesis in place." Denis Marcellin-Little, professor of orthopedics at the College of Veterinary Medicine, who worked on the surgery, is exploring ways to make the prosthesis last longer.
Even with some help, not all animals will instantly get up and go. It is possible that the animal might exhibit evidence of depression too, so knowing your pet well, and trusting your veterinarian will help guide your course of action. It is a time-consuming commitment to care for a crippled pet, especially so if the paralysis effects the bladder and bowels, resulting in incontinence. None are insurmountable obstacles, but certainly the condition poses many challenges, for the pet as well as their owner.
It can seem overwhelmingly heartbreaking to think of an active pet reduced in this manner, but depending on the animal's attitude, it may well be that they can still find plenty of fun and satisfaction in engaging a toy, sniffing an unusual scent, watching the birds and greeting you at the door, just as before.
- Filed Under: Health & Home